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Doc notices the cough. He might even notice it before Wynonna does. For all the people who call her selfish, Doc's not sure she's ever thought about herself for longer than a couple of seconds put together in the whole of her life.

Well, maybe if she was busy blaming someone for something.

He notices the cough, but it's winter and there's snow on the ground. Waverly's possessed by an elemental demon, Dolls is currently lost to them, and Doc's not unaware that he's a little neurotic when it comes to coughing. He forces himself not to say anything.

He can't force himself not to make her tea, to check that she's wearing a coat. She is, obviously. She's not an idiot.

He can't force himself not to sit in the living room of the homestead through the few hours she manages to get sleep, here and there, and listen to the disruption of her breathing. It's a cold, he knows that. He understands that, truly, he does.

He can't force himself to believe.

*

They get Waverly back. It's not pretty and it leaves Waverly with wide, desperate eyes, afraid of herself, ashamed of the damage her body has managed to wreak. Nicole pours half a bottle of whiskey down her throat and puts her to bed. Smart girl.

It leaves Wynonna shaky as a newborn colt and drained of whatever adrenaline had kept her upright during the whole thing. When Nicole has gotten Waverly safely out of sight, Wynonna's knees buckle and it is only because he's watching, because he's expecting it, that Doc is able to catch her before she's on the ground.

She buries her face in his chest, shuddering. "One down, one to go."

Doc hasn't forgotten Dolls—he has a vague flash of the man tearing through Shorty's, nothing human beneath the skin, has to will the desire back, remind himself that he's done wanting men he can't have and the women who love them—he hasn't forgotten, but, "You're no good to him like this, darling."

He can feel the struggle in her, the way her muscles tense, how she wants to argue. Only, in that moment, her body explodes into a coughing jag, seeming to tear out of her very core. When he looks down, there's something that paralyzes him.

She's already apologizing, shaking hands touching at the bloodied spot on his shirt, telling him she'll buy him a new one, and it's only because he can't breathe that he doesn't tell her to shut up. She must see something in his face when she looks up because she brings a hand to his cheek. "Hey."

"Doctor," he manages. "You need a doctor."

She smiles, that soft, silly smile she so rarely shows anyone who's not Waverly, and says, "I got one right here."

There's blood, shiny and red, on her lower lip and he can't look away. "Wynonna," he starts, and whatever there is in his tone, terror or helplessness or…he doesn't even know, but whatever it is, she says, "Okay, Hank, okay. You can take me to a doctor."

*

It's not tuberculosis, of course it isn't. Doc pays attention enough to know that's pretty rare these days, and even more rarely fatal, at least in these parts. It is pneumonia.

"Walking pneumonia," Wynonna tells him, eyeing her clothes, thrown on the windowsill. "Which means I can walk right out of here."

He moves between her and anything that will cover her ass enough to allow her to make a break for it. "Your listenin' skills leave something to be desired."

She frowns and coughs. It's not as harsh or tearing as before, but he's pretty sure that's because she's got IV antibiotics hooked into her, and they'd made her do some sort of breathing treatment for a good half an hour. She mutters, "Well, it was walking pneumonia."

Or, at least, that was what the doctor had postulated when she'd finally admitted she'd been feeling sick for the better part of two weeks. At this point, however, there's nothing modifying it—she has pneumonia. Thankfully, it's bacterial, which is evidently easier than it was back in his time.

She coughs again, and he does his best not to jump out of his damn skin. When she's finished, she's pale and there are circles around her eyes that could seriously be painted on, but she's still watching him carefully, like the set of his shoulders might tell her what she wants to know.

He's worried it might.

All she says, though, is, "Don't like hospitals. Didn't even before Murdery McMurderson kept me hostage in an approximation of one."

He sits down in the chair by the side of the bed and folds both his hands around the one of hers that doesn't have needles parked in it. "I'm here this time, darlin'."

Her breath catches on a cough and he holds onto her hand through it, trying not to flinch at her involuntary spasms. Her head falls back slightly when she's done, like it's too damn heavy for her to hold up. He thinks it might be, just then.

Her eyes drift closed, and she says, "Tired, Doc."

He's pretty sure she's trying to make it sound like it's just a physical issue. It's clearly not. He says, "I know. I know. Sleep."

*

The hospital releases her after twenty-four hours with about six bottles of medications and instructions not to get out of bed for at least another week. They make her ride in a wheelchair to the door, which causes her to grumble under her breath, but when she stands her legs can barely hold her, and Doc lets her lean against him until he's poured her into the passenger seat of her car.

She frowns at him. "You've got the driving thing down, right?"

He smirks a little and turns the key in the ignition. Wynonna falls asleep before they're even out of the parking lot. Her car isn't the kind of quiet that the monster Dolls drives is, but it's not loud enough that he can't hear the wheezing sound she makes with every breath. He grips the wheel tightly and concentrates on the road.

Waverly is waiting on the front porch of the homestead when they arrive, probably having heard the car. She's wan-looking and could probably still use a few days of sleep, but he can't fault her for wanting to see that Wynonna's fine with her own eyes.

Wynonna doesn't wake when the car comes to a stop, or even when Doc opens the door, so he gathers her up in a bridal carry and takes her into the house, Waverly following behind. He looks down at the bundle in his arms and tells Waverly, "This had best be our little secret."

Waverly's smile isn't as bright as the one he's used to, and they'll have to work on that, but it's there. He settles Wynonna in her bed and plants himself on the floor by the window, in case she wakes up needing something. Waverly, for her part, curls up against Wynonna and falls asleep, the two of the somehow managing to look small despite taking up most of the bed.

*

Doc wakes up to the sound of Wynonna coughing. It's not as bad as it was, nowhere near, really. He resists the urge to rub his chest, trying to massage away pain that hasn't existed for over a century. He stands, working out the kinks of having fallen asleep sitting against the wall.

He slept in a well for a hundred years. He's had worse.

He heads to the kitchen and sets water to boiling. Neither he nor Wynonna is much for tea on a routine basis, but he's glad Waverly keeps it around. Speaking of, Waverly wanders in to the kitchen from where she'd been sitting on the sofa with Nicole. She says, "I woke her up to take her meds a couple of hours ago."

He nods. "Chamomile or peppermint, do you think?"

"Chamomile," she says. "For both of you. And you need to crash in an actual bed."

Her bossy tone is lacking some of its previous oomph, but it's good to hear, all the same. He says, "Yes, ma'am."

She grabs two mugs for him and says, "She's safe, Doc. Nicole's here. We're not gonna let anything happen."

It's not that he doesn't think Nicole and Waverly can stand their own. All the same, for just a moment, an intense ache for the steadiness that Dolls provides pervades Doc's bones. He shakes it off with a concentrated effort and gives a shadow of a smile to Waverly. "I know."

*

Doc wakes Wynonna up and makes her drink the tea, gives her some more Tylenol. She leans into his chest and says, "We don't have time for this."

He rubs circles into her back and says, "We can't get to him with you warning everything within twenty feet with that hacking of yours."

She snorts. "Way to make a gal feel in control of things."

He swallows down what he wants to say, that she doesn't always have to be in control, that she's got people who will catch her when she falls. Instead he says, "Waverly and Nicole and I, we'll make a plan, we need a plan anyway."

She crumples back into a lying down position and says, "Maybe just—could you maybe just wait till I fall asleep again?"

He thinks she has to be halfway to sleep to even ask. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm not going anywhere."

Her eyes flash open at that, holding his, sharper and more lucid than they've been since he took her to the hospital. She says, "Me neither, Doc."

He's a damn fool for believing it, but all the same, he does.